The Best Written TV Series Is…?

Top TV showsThe members of the Writers Guild of America were asked to vote online for the best written TV series in history. The organization tallied a list of 101 shows and David Chase’s HBO drama, The Sopranos, came out on top.

It’s worth noting that the list contains a few titles that most consider to be mini-series, not TV shows — like Roots and I, Claudius.

For better or worse, here’s the WGA’s complete list. Please share your thoughts below!

1. The Sopranos
2. Seinfeld
3. The Twilight Zone (1959)
4. All in the Family
5. M*A*S*H
6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
7. Mad Men
8. Cheers
9. The Wire
10. The West Wing

11. The Simpsons
12. I Love Lucy
13. Breaking Bad
14. The Dick Van Dyke Show
15. Hill Street Blues
16. Arrested Development
17. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
18. Six Feet Under
19. Taxi
20. The Larry Sanders Show

21. 30 Rock
22. Friday Night Lights
23. Frasier
24. Friends
25. Saturday Night Live
26. The X-Files
27. Lost
28. ER
29. The Cosby Show
30. Curb Your Enthusiasm

31. The Honeymooners
32. Deadwood
33. Star Trek
34. Modern Family
35. Twin Peaks
36. NYPD Blue
37. The Carol Burnett Show
38. Battlestar Galactica (2005)
39. Sex & the City
40. Game of Thrones

41. The Bob Newhart Show, Your Show of Shows (tie)
43. Downton Abbey, Law & Order, thirtysomething (tie)
46. Homicide: Life on the Street, St. Elsewhere (tie)
48. Homeland
49. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
50. The Colbert Report, The Good Wife, The Office (UK) (tie)

53. Northern Exposure
54. The Wonder Years
55. L.A. Law
56. Sesame Street
57. Columbo
58. Fawlty Towers, The Rockford Files (tie)
60. Freaks and Geeks, Moonlighting (tie)

62. Roots
63. Everybody Loves Raymond, South Park (tie)
65. Playhouse 90
66. Dexter, The Office (US) (tie)
68. My So-Called Life
69. The Golden Girls
70. The Andy Griffith Show

71. 24, Roseanne, The Shield (tie)
74. House, Murphy Brown (tie)
76. Barney Miller; I, Claudius (tie)
78. The Odd Couple
79. Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Monty Python’s Flying Circus; Star Trek: The Next Generation; Upstairs, Downstairs (tie)

83. Get Smart
84. The Defenders, Gunsmoke (tie)
86. Justified, Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) (tie)
88. Band of Brothers
89. Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
90. The Prisoner

91. Absolutely Fabulous (UK), The Muppet Show (tie)
93. Boardwalk Empire
94. Will & Grace
95. Family Ties
96. Lonesome Dove, Soap (tie)
98. The Fugitive, Late Night with David Letterman, Louie (tie)
101. Oz

What do you think? Do agree with their choices? Are any of your favorites missing? Are there any titles that you don’t recognize?

Canceled and renewed TV show

13 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. Deanna Dacquisto says

    Where is Walking Dead?? Also, I don’t know if many people know this show, but “Dead like Me” was a fantastic show that got cancelled suddenly after 2 seasons. The loyal fan base demanded an ending, so 5 years later they came out with a movie!! Also, Roseanne is my ALL-TIME favorite show, and to be in the 60s or 70s is RIDICULOUS! Roseanne Barr is a master mind, who broke every sitcom mold of their time. This list is VERY DISAPPOINTING!!!!

  2. says

    I also think ‘The Ghost Whisperer’……..was very good and could have been even better with better writers……. It was an interesting concept…….about crossing people OVER.

  3. Mark says

    Inspector Morse UK tv should be at the very top of this list. It’s the best written tv show you will ever see. Add The world at war to that list if documentaries count then you have the best two written shows. Stuff like Kojak, Ironside, waking the dead, prison break, dads army should all be in there. Then again it’s a totally subjective list for all of us who have a passion for classic tv shoes.

  4. Adam Decker says

    You forgot to mention which of The Defenders made the list. Was it the most recent one or the original one?

    I think that Touch, Invader Zim, and How I Met Your Mother should be on the list. At lot of these I haven’t seen so I don’t know what I’d kick off if anything.

  5. kate fredericks says

    Sopranos, number 1? No offense to those of you who loved the show, but I could name several dozen far more deserving of that status! Who voted this list, anyway? It’s really a bit of a joke IMHO.

  6. says

    There are so many shows that not only deserve to be much higher on this list, but that should also downright bump others off completely. I won’t go into specifics only because MY list would be too long. I will mention, however, that the “Writer’s Guild” should take a deeper look at what they deem the best written shows, because honestly, some of their top choices leave much to be desired, in terms of being referred to as the best written shows out there. LOST, by any standards, should have made it higher on the list. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though it was a show about teens with quirky personalities, it had so much depth, it was astounding. And that’s only the beginning. I will say this: BABYLON 5 and SUPERNATURAL, the two best written shows ever, never even made the list, despite the fact that both those shows have unbelievably deep, thought-provoking stories and characters. But, I suppose we’re just stuck in an age where “shiny objects that make some people laugh” is what’s considered the best. Truly, these “voters” should take a good hard look at the difference between GOOD and SIMPLY absent-minded choices that fall in line with shows about a bunch of people that share a single brain cell.

    • kate fredericks says

      It’s the demographics issue that is driving good scripted TV like Supernatural into extinction. Writing for children is killing the entire network/cable industry as they are trying to pull in younger, busier, people and don’t give a rat’s behind about adults who have more time, money, and ahem, wisdom to discern what is good writing and what is c##p! Think about it, I remember my 20’s and 30’s and I was too busy working, raising children and playing with friends to watch much TV. So it’s not so much as a brain cell vacuum as about adult choices vs. children choices. If this continues, I predict that the network/cable medium will crash within a short time as more of us adults turn OFF our TVs and find other things to do. Just look at this past season and what they cancelled – CSI NY, Vegas and Golden Boy. Not saying these were the best shows, but each one had better ratings than a lot of the junk that got renewed. Ratings in the “wrong” demographic! If you really want a thrill, check out the network new fall schedule! I’m going to have a lot more time on my hands to do other, more interesting things!! PS: If only FX put out more scripted shows! As for this list, if this is what the writers think, in order of appearance are the greatest shows, no wonder things are going down the tubes, so to speak!

      • says

        Well said, Kate. I was shocked to see so many amazing shows get the ax this year. Good shows that, at hearing about their cancellations, left me floored. Now I know people are busy with work and kids, but now-a-days, who doesn’t have a DVR? In fact, not too long ago, I read that now, ratings are based on what’s being recorded for later.

        The sad truth is, the networks are run by “suits” who: A: don’t know good from bad; B: refuse to give shows a chance beyond episode #1 of a show they never bothered to advertise; C: are so infuriating, the people behind the shows rarely want anything to do with the “suits”. It just kills me that great shows get canned, when shows like Scrubs (never laughed once in three episode-chance I gave it) lasted forever. I always look forward to the new fall schedule, but honestly, as time goes by, I find myself more guarded when it comes to getting hooked on a great show, for fear that it won’t be on the following week. I mean, this past year, countless shows were cancelled after ONE episode. Never mind that people, like you said, run busy lives. Never mind that a lot of them record their shows now. Never mind that the suits never advertise. BOOM. They just cancel it.

        I think it’s time viewers expand their horizons just a little and realize that watching brainless people go about their empty lives is not entertainment. Not by any standards.

  7. Stephanie Grohol says

    I agree with All In the Family, MASH, The West Wing, I Love Lucy, The Cosby Show, Star Trek, Sex and the City, and the Andy Griffith Show, but the rest, not so much. There are so many other shows that I think are better and also most of the list I never watched and do not care to.

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